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Panel Name: Batman 75th Anniversary: Kevin Conroy
Topic: Kevin Conroy spoke about his experiences being a voice actor on the highly acclaimed television series Batman: The Animated Series along with other Batman franchises since then.
Featured Guest: The one, the only, Kevin Conroy.
Going to the famed voice actor Kevin Conroy’s panel, I expected certain things. Namely, that he would talk in his famous Batman voice for the entire hour, and while he didn’t do exactly that, he surely didn’t disappoint either. He came out on stage and exclaimed in his gravelly voice, “I am vengeance! I am the knight! I AM BATMAN!”
For about the first 20 minutes, Conroy spoke extensively about his how he got “the job” (it’s the voice of Batman if you haven’t caught on yet), his time on the show and other Batman franchises, and what he learned along the way. Conroy had gone to Juilliard and done theater acting in New York. He also had some experience in L.A. on TV. With the combination of the two experiences, he had done some voice over work before. His agent sent him to meet Bruce Timm and Paul Dini at Warner Brothers. He initially told them the only thing he new about Batman was the campy 60’s TV show starring Adam West (let’s hope Adam West didn’t hear this panel). Timm and Dini immediately let Conroy know thatThe Animated Series was very noir and had a much darker tone because it was about a man avenging the murder of his parents. He said using his imagination and (in full Batman voice) “going into a deeper and darker place” both Timm and Dini stopped him to tell him he got the role.
His piece of advice about Hollywood and getting a job was more about luck. He said that anybody can get a job who has talent, but it is about “the right person that day making the right choices who gets the job.” Over 20 years later, Conroy is still here and he is still the voice of Batman. He never planned on the path his career has taken him, but he is happy where is career has gone. He also spoke on the difference between voice acting on the shows or movies vs. the video games. On the show, he and the other actors were all together and were able to interact with one another, specifically Mark Hamill (The Joker), Richard Moll (Harvey Dent), Efrem Zimbalist Jr. (Alfred). Ice-T was even a guest voice once. When Conroy asked what he was doing there, Ice-T replied “Are you kidding? My kids love Batman.” The games are much different because the every line has to be perfectly clean. There is no interaction with the other actors. In addition, the different plays of the game lead to different outcomes, and therefore, different lines of dialogue. Conroy said there are “zillions and zillions of lines.” He does say that the result for the audience is well worth the tediousness of that kind of voice acting work. And as a little teaser of excitement for the audience he said “The new Arkham Knight is…” then he just looked down and shook his head.
Conroy talked about his belief about why Batman has lasted so long. For one, he isn’t a superhero. Everyone can relate to a guy, which Batman is. He makes the choice to do the things he does because he makes all his weapons and goes out and fights crime. He also has high morals. Instead of killing the criminals, he puts them in Arkham Asylum… “which means you get a great game!” But the psychology of Batman is interesting to Conroy and to the fans because of his baggage and childhood. It is what Batman does with it, trying to help people, that people connect with because everyone has an inner hero. “Batman is the personification of that.” As far as difference in Conroy’s voice when playing Bruce Wayne rather than Batman is based on how everyone has a double life. But for Batman, the costume is Bruce Wayne. “Batman in the cave is his naked self. That is where he being the most honest.” Bruce Wayne though is the business man, the show. Conroy says we all have a face that we put on.
He also talked a bit about how production on an animated series works. The voice actors record months before anything is aired because the animators match the mouth movements to what is being said. He had no idea what anything was going to look like. He and Mark Hamill were together when the first animations came back and watched it on a huge screen. He said he looked at Mark and said, “Did you have a CLUE that this is what we were doing?!” It was then that they both realized what they had been working on was pretty special.
Conroy spoke on the anonymity of voice acting. However, this has changed more recently. Then he told this amazing story about getting recognized in Hollywood:
Conroy took many questions, where answers ranged from an embarrassing story about shaking a bosses hand after he had coughed a loogie into his own hand, and working with voice actors who weren’t cut out for the business. The last request from a fan was to sing a verse of any song as Batman. What happened after was totally unexpected, but absolutely made my weekend. Here is Kevin Conroy singing, “Softly, As I Leave You.”